WEIRTON - The Madonna defense smothered a virtually helpless Tucker County offense while the Blue Dons scored early and often in a 52-0 romp in the opening round of the Class A state football championships Friday evening at Jimmy Carey Stadium.
The win boosts the No. 1 ranked Blue Dons to 11-0 while the Mountain Lions, ranked 16th, will pack their gear with a 6-5 chart.
The Mountain Lions, who lost their quarterback and leading rusher, Austin Zirk, at the end of the first period, couldn't get the offense working and wound up with just 48 yards of total yardage - 43 rushing and five passing. Zirk, who went into the game with more than 1,300 yards on the ground, was sacked a couple of times and left the game with minus 12 yards rushing and completed just one of four passes for five yards.
Photo courtesy of Mike Mathison/Ogden Newspapers
Tucker County’s Austin Zirk attempts to elude a pair of Madonna defenders, including Nate Guio (5), in Class A opening round playoff action Friday night at Jimmy Carey Stadium in Weirton.
"That's definitely the way you want to start the playoff series," said Blue Don coach Doug Taylor, whose team was making its seventh straight playoff appearance. "That was step one and I thought we played very well on both sides of the football."
Offensively, the Blue Dons pretty much had their way and running back Eliott Nero had a monster night scoring five touchdowns, three running and two receiving. Nero, who leads the area in rushing, added 153 more yards to the 1,289 yards he finished the regular season with.
Meanwhile, Comis, the other half of the dynamic duo, passed for four touchdowns and 125 yards completing 11 of 14 passes (his last 7 in a row). Then he added 134 yards on the ground with 16 rushes.
"The credit goes to our offensive line," said Nero after the game. "They blocked very well tonight. The type of quarterback we have likes to make plays with his feet. He'll scramble around and you just have to find the open spot."
Taylor praised his defense.
"We want to play good defense because we think that's what wins championships," he continued. "Our offense gets a lot of the credit because of the numbers they've been able to put up, but our defense played well."
The Blue Don defense has relinquished just 106 points in 11 games this year.
He also praised Nero.
"That was an unbelievable performance by Eliott Nero tonight," Taylor explained. "We wanted to take a little bit of the heat off of Ross (Comis). We ran him a little bit, but we wanted to run Eliott tonight and it was good to see Tyler Ewusiak more involved in the offense."
Ewusiak, a senior, caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Comis in the first quarter and later added a 28-yard reception.
The Blue Dons left little doubt about the outcome right from the beginning.
It took them just four plays and 1:42 to score after receiving the opening kickoff. Nero found a seam through the right side of the line and raced 47 yards for the first score. When the Mountain Lions were off side as the Blue Dons lined up to kick the extra point, Taylor sent his offense in and Comis ran the ball for the two-point conversion.
Nero scored again in the first period on an 8-yard run and junior Austin Connell blocked a Daniel Kisamore punt with the ball going out of the end zone for a safety and another two points. Then, Ewusiak got wide open down the left side from 19 yards out and Comis found him. Tucker County went off side again on the attempted kick and this time Nero ran it in giving the Blue Dons a commanding 24-0 first period lead.
The Blue Dons, who traveled to Parsons to beat the Mountain Lions in double overtime, 20-14, in last year's semi-final round of the playoff, led 31-0 at the half and then tacked on 21 second half points.
The Blue Dons will host a second round playoff game next weekend facing the winner of today's Clay-Battelle and Wahama game. Madonna beat the Cee Bees 35-6 last week in the regular season finale and lost to Wahama 43-42 in overtime in the 2012 state championship game in Wheeling.
"Each week it's going to get a little tougher," Taylor exclaimed. "Every week we're going to have to improve. We told the kids this is step one of a four-step process. Every week we have to get better and better because next week's competition is going to be better."